Fulton Mall’s Store-ied Past

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A. I. Namm & Son and the Offerman Building, two not-quite-lost names from Fulton Mall’s past.

 

With all the office and residential new construction that has taken and is taking place in downtown Brooklyn in the past two decades, we’re wondering if it’s time to restore Fulton Mall to its past glory as Brooklyn’s equivalent to Manhattan’s Ladies Mile. Dozens of residential buildings have risen above the mall, on Willoughby and Livingston Streets, and all along Flatbush Avenue from the Manhattan Bridge to the Barclays Center at Fifth Avenue. Others are on the rise, and more, including two mega risers, are coming at 80 Flatbush Avenue, 138 Willoughby Avenue, and 9 DeKalb Avenue, on Fulton Mall behind and rising way above the famous dome of the Dime Savings Bank building.

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Liebmann Brothers had this building erected for their store in 1888. The old A&S store, now Macy’s, wraps around it in the background.

With all these residential apartments a stone’s throw from the mall, there has been a big uptick in national chain stores moving onto strip, including the Gap, H&M, Banana Republic, Nordstrom’s, Adidas, and more. We’d like to see more large, upscale department stores to complement the newly renovated Macy’s store there. This might be a pipe dream, but the fact is that, beginning in the 1890s or so and lasting into the 1970s, Fulton Street from City Hall to Flatbush Avenue was full of department stores and large dry goods companies, theatres, and restaurants.

As few Brooklynites need to be told, Macy’s does business out of the former Abraham and Straus department store. A&S evolved from a dry goods store, Wechsler & Abraham, that began in 1865 and operated in the old commercial district in and around Adams, Tillery, and Washington Streets. The company moved to the Fulton Street location when the Brooklyn Bridge opened, and it soon became the largest store in New York State. The Straus name came in 1892, when brothers Isidor and Nathan bought out Wechsler’s interest. A&S remained an anchor of the strip until 1995, when its (and Macy’s) long-time parent Federated Department Stores retired the Abraham & Strauss nameplate and made it a Macy’s. A&S was of a class equal to Macy’s, and outlasted all its competitors on Fulton Street, including Spear’s, Loeser’s, Korvettes, Oppenheim & Collins, Liebmann Brothers, and others.

Former Namms Bldg, Dwarfed

When this building went up for A. I. Namm and Son, it was one of the tallest buildings in Brooklyn. Today, it’s dwarfed by the many condo buildings going up all over the area, one of which rises behind it here.

The lot where Cookies Department Store is today, on Fulton Street between Bond Street and Hanover Place, has a history of large commercial enterprise, beginning in 1895 with the opening of the New Montauk Theater, which presented live shows from Broadway as well as original productions. It was demolished in 1925, and the new three-story building built there became the home of the Spear & Co. furniture store (1928 until the mid-1950s), one of the early innovators of allowing customers to buying furniture “on time.” It then became and remained a May’s department store into the 1980s.

Witness to many of those changes was the Loeser Department Store across Bond Street, which took up the entire block between Bond and Elm Streets and from Fulton to Livingston Streets from the 1890s until 1950. Loeser’s operated several stores, all in Brooklyn, but the Fulton Street location was the flagship. In the late 1930s a concourse was built in the subway station at Hoyt-Schermerhorn station that connected the station and Loeser’s, a block away at Livingston Street. Take a walk eastward along that concourse today and you’ll see large wall tiles with the Loeser logo, a “memorial” of sorts to the department store.

The Offerman Building

The Offerman Building across Fulton Street from Macy’s once again is home to major retail names.

Liebmann Brothers for a short time sat at the corner of Hoyt Street, near A&S. Originally a partner of Loeser when located in the old shopping district near Adams and Tillery Streets, Liebmann’s moved to Fulton Street in 1890. They closed shop before the end of the decade.

One of the most successful stores on the strip was that of A. I. Namm, who had moved from Manhattan to the corner of Fulton and Washington Streets in 1885 and then, after a fire, to 452 Fulton Street. Selling trimmings and embroidery supplies, floor coverings and such, the company grew and grew, eventually taking over virtually the entire block from Elm to Hoyt Streets and Fulton to Livingston Streets. By the 1920s it was one of the largest departments stores in the country. It redesigned its space into one large building in 1924-1925. The new store included an entrance to the subway and was one of the tallest buildings in Brooklyn. Today, it is miniscule compared to the condos towering above it. Namm’s remained successful into the 1950s, eventually buying the Loeser store name. The Fulton Street store closed 1957, but if you look closely, you can still see the name inscribed in ninety years of grime on its façade.

Further down Fulton Street, at Lawrence Street, is another former department store building. Now home to the Children’s Place, Dr Jay’s, and Banana Republic, this once housed the Oppenheim Collins department store. Oppenheim and Collins had both been major players at A&S before leaving to start their own ladies clothing business. At its zenith, the company had stores in and around Brooklyn, Manhattan, Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Maryland.

Dime Savings Bank

Possibly the most iconic building on the mall, the domed Dime Savings Bank building, will be the lobby for a 786-foot tower being built behind it. Note the cranes in place on the left.

The company was sold to City Stores and was eventually folded into the Franklin Simon brand. City Stores went under in 1979. By that time, the Fulton Mall store had been occupied for years by another retail chain, the discounters E.J. Korvette’s, which went out the same year. Walk pat the building today and you can still see the company’s logo at the top of the rounded corner of the building.

More successful was Martin’s, a specialty shop for women’s clothes and bridal gowns, which moved from the corner of Bridge Street into the Offerman Building across Fulton Street from A&S in 1924 and stayed until 1979, a key year, it seems, in the history of Fulton Street’s department store history. The company at its peak had six stores in the New York area.

Forty years later, Brooklyn’s renaissance has brought thousands of new residential units to downtown Brooklyn, and a flock of retail chains are following. We shop online now, and so the age of the giant department store will probably never return, but it’s great to see Fulton Street thriving as it always seems to, but with a bit more pizzazz today than during those intervening years.

 


Where in the World is Dennett (Dennet?) Place?

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Brooklyn’s Dennett Place is just one block long, and the treeless street                     is not much more than an alley.

 

One of the major ongoing controversies that embroil Brooklyn is the battle over how to spell Dennett, the name of one of the borough’s most fascinating streets, Dennet Place. Okay, maybe the controversy isn’t so major, but there is a question there. But, the first question to be answered is, where in the world is Dennett Place? This one-block long, treeless street lies near the southern end of Carroll Gardens, running from Luquer Street to Nelson Street between Court and Smith Streets.

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The houses on Dennett Place are all approximately 18 feet wide x 28 feet deep.

Not much more than an alley, Dennet Place is lined with tiny two-family homes with tiny garden-level apartment doors that almost any adult would have to bend over to go through. The houses are all about 18 x 28 feet with a rear yard of another 17 feet or so. That’s small enough to qualify as quaint, we think.

These homes date to the mid-to-late nineteenth century, possibly to the 1850s. The general feeling is they might have been built to house workers who were building the nearby St. Mary Star of the Sea R.C. Church, which opened around 1855. Then, you could rent a Dennett Place house for $9.00 per month. Today, you can buy one for between $1.5 and $2 million.

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So, which is it? Current signs use the two-t spelling.

On most maps, this street is called Dennett Place, but some call it Dennet Place (which is why we alternated our spelling above). Complicating things more, some nineteenth century maps exist that refer to it as Bennett Place. A 2012 article in the New York Times spells it with a single “t,” and in our memory there was a street sign on a corner building there that read Dennet Place. Go to there today and the street signs say Dennett Place, which, right or wrong, is good enough for us to use that spelling. There is no record of where the name came from, so there’s no place to get a confirmation.

The other quirky aspect of Dennett Place is the series of small doors on the street-facing side of the stoops. The lane is narrow, as we’ve said, and the sidewalks are, too. The homes consist of a lower-level garden apartment and an upper-level duplex, reached from the street by a stoop. That’s typical of Brownstone Brooklyn, but usually, the stoops are built to rise straight in from the street, and the garden-level apartment is accessed by a door under the stoop. On Dennett Place, however, because the sidewalks are so narrow, the stoops were built to rise across the face of each property rather than straight in from the street, and the doors to the lower apartments go straight in from the street under the stoops. Because the height of the stoops here is less than on other blocks, the under-stoop entrances had to be built to fit, which is pretty small. We’ve never had the opportunity to see into an open stoop door, but we assume there are steps leading down to the garden-level apartment.

The block is very well kept, the buildings mostly spotlessly clean and recently painted. In one of the most popular and posh neighborhoods in the borough, even many residents are unaware of Dennett Place. It is truly one of a kind in a borough filled with off-the-beaten-path gems. Should you come to Brooklyn to see them, Dennett Place must be near the top of your list.

 

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Dennett Place’s most interesting feature is the series of tiny, under-the-stoop doors that provide access to the garden-level apartments. They’re only about four and one-half feet high.

 


 

Nitehawk Park Slope is OPEN!

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The Nitehawk Park Slope is now open!

 

A few months ago, we wrote about the conversion of the old Sanders Theater on Bartel-Pritchard Square to a second venue for the owners of Williamsburg’s Nitehawk Theater. Just before Christmas, while you were busy Christmas Shopping and might have missed the news, the new Nitehawk Park Slope theater opened. The movies are back on Prospect Park West!

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At the bar in the first-floor lobby, you can buy tickets and drinks.

And not just movies. The Nitehawk complex has six theaters and first-floor lobby and second-floor bars where you can grab something to take into the theater with you. Above the second-floor bar is a mezzanine with tables to sit and chill before, during, or after any showing. The first-floor bar is where you can buy tickets for any show, though many were sold out when we went. We’d bought our tickets earlier, online, at https://nitehawkcinema.com/prospectpark/. At the theater, we stepped up to one of the ticket kiosks where you can print out the tickets you’ve pre-ordered. You can punch in your order number or use the Q4 code reader and the tickets print in an instant.

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On the mezzanine above the second-floor bar is a seating area for eating, drinking, or just chilling.

The theaters are scattered across four or five levels. You can make the hike up, and there is an Elevator for the upper floors if you prefer to ride. Once in the theater, you’ll immediately notice that there is a small table between each double seat

and a menu on the table. You can order food and drinks to enjoy during the movie presentation, and as you’d expect, the menu is flush with healthy and even vegan options along with burgers and popcorn. Try a Mary Poppins Lamplighter’s Lunch (Pork beef and currant meatloaf), or the Aquaman Surface vs. Sea (Duo Slider, beef and shrimp). There’s lighter fare, as well, including cheese plates, hummus, queso, homemade jerky, and classic popcorn. On weekends, a brunch menu and a kid’s menu are included. Drinks are water, soda, beer, wine, Nitehawk signature cocktails with names like Barry Lindon, Fire Walk with Me, and Goonies Never Say Die, and a full lineup of whiskeys, scotches, rum, gin, and liqueurs. There’s something for everybody. We had the kale salad, and it was excellent.

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The small tables between seat pairs holds a menu and paper to write your order.

If you’re not ready for the bar, there’s plenty to watch in the theaters before the feature starts, with screenings showing the conversion of the theater, old footage of TV shows and commercials, and a great admonishment reel featuring John Waters telling us we’re not allowed to smoke in the theater while encouraging us to do exactly that.

Having a drink and food during your show is a great addition to the movie-going experience, and when you order your ticket online, you can click the Dine and Dash option and everything you order, including the tip, will be charged to the card you purchased the ticket with, so you don’t have to wait around to settle up with your server when the show’s over. Just get up and go. That’s a sweet service.

Yes, the Nitehawk is open and the movies are back in Park Slope, and like never before! We encourage you to go.

 

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                            The newly renovated Nitehawk Theater on Bartel-Pritchard Square,                           15th Street and Prospect Park West.

 


 

Historic Fort Greene Park

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The Prison Ship Martyrs Monument at Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn.

 

New York City, and Brooklyn with it, is a land of macadam, concrete, and steel. But with all its hard surfaces and hard edges, it is a city that loves its natural green spaces. Besides the well-known major parks, like Central Park, Washington Square, and the Battery in Manhattan and Prospect Park, McCarren Park, and Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, there are hundreds of small squares and triangles full of trees and shrubs and benches for weary pedestrians and area residents to sit in and enjoy.

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The visitors center at Fort Greene Park.

Brooklyn’s oldest official park remains today a bastion of activity and history. The land now known as Fort Greene Park has twice been the site of an actual fort. The first, Fort Putnum, was built at the start of the Revolutionary War by troops commanded by Nathaniel Greene. It was quickly taken by the British during the Battle of Brooklyn and held by them until the end of the conflict. It was re-outfitted and renamed Fort Greene

at the start of the War of 1812. After that war, it was decommissioned and was a draw for locals as a place to hang out and mingle. Washington Park, the park’s original name, was commissioned by the city in 1845 and promoted heavily by the poet Walt Whitman, who worked as an editor at the Brooklyn Eagle at the time. Washington Park opened in 1850.

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Washington Park. The street along the Eastern boundary of Fort Greene Park maintains the park’s original name.

The site is also a hallowed ground. During the revolution, the British anchored several decommissioned ships and barges in Wallabout Bay, just north of Fort Greene Park and the long-time site of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Upwards of 11,000 men died aboard those vessels and were simply tossed overboard or buried in shallow mud at the edge of the bay. By the turn of the nineteenth century, their bones and other remnants were becoming exposed by tidal drifting of the muck. In 1808 the remains of these unfortunates were dredged up and buried on drier land near the navy yard.

Following the Civil War, a remodeling of the park conducted by Vaux and Olmstead, the designers of Central and Prospect Parks, included a final resting place for those “prison ship martyrs,” and the remains were moved again to this vault. In 1897, the park was renamed for General Greene. Interestingly, the street along the park’s eastern boundary is still named Washington Park.

Crypt Entrance

This door in the grand staircases that lead to the monument could be the entrance to the Prison Ship Martyrs’ crypt.

In 1905, the architectural firm McKim, Mead, and White was commissioned to design a memorial to those buried under the park, the tall column that rises above the park today. The tomb holds the largest number of bodies of any Revolutionary War graveyard.

On a less somber note, the park is a magnet for many residents of the eponymously named neighborhood, Fort Greene. There are tennis courts, a dog-friendly area at DeKalb Avenue and Washington Park, playgrounds for the youngsters, and plenty of spots perfect for sunbathing and lounging. There are plenty of great stores and restaurants nearby on DeKalb and Lafayette Avenues to grab something to picnic on while you’re there. History buffs should add a visit to this park to their bucket lists.

 


 

 

 

If It’s December, It’s Dyker Time!

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The stunning light displays in Dyker Heights will be up until the end of the holiday season. It’s well worth a trip!

Dyker Heights has been an attractive neighborhood since its initial development in the late nineteenth century as a bedroom community for Manhattan’s business elite. Today, it’s a mix of modest yet comfortable semidetached homes and shockingly huge mansions, but it’s never more attractive than during the December holiday season, when the entire neighborhood lights up with a massive communal display of Christmas lights and decorations. If you’ve never taken a walk or ride during the holidays through Dyker, as it’s called locally (or Dyker Lights at this time of year), you must put it on your bucket list and get it crossed off soon, perhaps this season.

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From angels to reindeer to toy soldiers and candy canes, everything’s lit up in Dyker in December.

Anyone who enjoys the festive atmosphere surrounding the holidays, and especially the lights, will have their cravings sated in Dyker. People come from all over the world to see the Manhattan window displays in the department stores, and people come from everywhere to marvel at the lawn and house displays in Dyker Heights.

To get there, you could take one of the tour buses that come from Manhattan, or drive, but we recommend the D train to 79th Street and a leisurely walk west along 83rd or 84th Street to 10th Avenue and back. There are spectacular displays throughout the neighborhood, but the most eye-popping are on 84th Street between 10th and 12th Avenues. If you find enchantment in Christmas décor and lights, you must get out to Dyker Heights and see the show.

But enough said. There’s no marvel in talking about it. This entry is about the lights, so the lights take over the page from here. We took a tour of this year’s displays, and our photos follow. We don’t claim to be professional photographers, but they should whet your appetite to see the show in person.

 

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Not everything is bright and festive. This home has a definite flair for the dramatic.

 

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Historic Green-wood Cemetery

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Some of the many hundreds of ornamented gravestones in Green-wood Cemetery.

One of Brooklyn’s most spectacular, naturally beautiful, and historically important spots and a big attraction for thousands of visitors annually is Green-wood Cemetery. (We won’t say it: people are dying to go there. Oops, we said it.) More famous people sleep at Green-wood than ever slept, lived, and/or died at the Hotel Chelsea; Green-wood is also forty-five years older than that Manhattan landmark.

As the mid-nineteenth century came into view, New York and Brooklyn were growing and becoming more urban. Green spaces were shrinking, and church yard cemeteries had graves reaching to the edges of their lots. The disposal of the departed began to become problematic. A new cemetery, Green-wood, was proposed by Brooklyn socialite Henry Pierrepont and laid out (no pun intended) after the then-current English style of cemetery having an informal park-like setting.

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Minerva, the Roman Goddess of wisdom, is the main feature of the monument honoring the Revolutionary War dead.

Soon after Green-wood opened in 1838, it became a destination spot for Brooklynites and for many Manhattanites, later becoming a final destination for some of those visitors. Green-wood now holds the rich and famous from days long gone and days just gone by. A short list of celebs buried there includes:

The Famous
Leonard Bernstein, Composer, West Side Story, many others
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Artist
Henry Ward Beecher, Abolitionist
Kate Claxton, Actress
Horace Greeley, Newspaperman, Politician
Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives, Engravers
Frederick Ebb, Lyricist
Frank Morgan, Actor, who portrayed the Wizard of Oz
Samuel B. Morse, inventor of Morse code

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Statues of soldiers of all ranks grace the base of the Civil War memorial on Battle Hill in Green-wood Cemetery.

The Notable
Stanley Bosworth, Founder, St, Ann’s School, Brooklyn Heights
George Catlin, Painter
Henry Chadwick, Baseball Hall of Famer and inventor of the box score
DeWitt Clinton, Governor of and Senator from New York
Peter Cooper, founder of Cooper Union
Charles Ebbets, Owner, Brooklyn Dodgers
Mary Ellis Peltz, Theatre Critic
Eli Siegel, Philosopher
Emma Stebbins, Sculptor of Bethesda Fountain in Central Park
Henry and William Steinway, father/son, Piano Makers

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“Our Drummer Boy” commemorates the life and death of twelve-year-old Clarence McKenzie, the first Brooklynite killed in the Civil War.

The Infamous
Albert Anastasia, noted mobster
William “Boss” Tweed, Politician

and many other artists, athletes, industrialists, murderers and the murdered, military men and women, politicians, socialites, and more.

The grounds are the site of some of the fiercest fighting that took place during the Battle of Brooklyn, the first major battle of the Revolutionary War. The highest point in Brooklyn, Battle Hill, is in the cemetery, and is graced with a monument to the battle in the form of a statue of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, and one to the New Yorkers who died in the Civil War. Elsewhere on the grounds is a monument remembering twelve-year-old Clarence McKenzie, the first soldier from Brooklyn killed in the Civil War. Ironically, it was not in battle, but in camp that the youngster, in his tent, was hit by a stray bullet from other Union soldiers drilling nearby. His monument, entitled “Our Drummer Boy,” stands on what’s known as the Hill of Graves, surrounded by other soldiers who were killed or fought in the Civil War.

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Crypts and monuments line this road and dot the entire grounds in Green-wood.

There are hundreds of mausoleums, obelisks, statues, and thousands and thousands of standard gravestones and markers of well-known and ordinary citizens across the cemetery’s 478 acres. Near the main entrance on Fifth Avenue is the monument to those lost in the Brooklyn Theatre Fire, atop a mound under which lie more than one hundred bodies of men, women, and children buried in a mass grave, the unidentifiable remains of victims of that historic, horrific conflagration. Far from being an historical relic, however, the cemetery is alive and vibrant, and continues to accept new residents. There’s room for many more.

Green-wood also continues its long history as a recreational destination, offering a slate of annual, monthly, and one-off events in every season. Many have to do with discussions and/or examinations of death. November includes a Day of the Dead Family Program; Making an Exit: From the Magnificent to the Macabre; Border Crossings: This and Other Worlds (about death, not politics). 

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A fall day at Green-wood Cemetery.

There are Twilight Tours, birding tours (including a search for the famous Green-wood parrots), Trolley Tours (perfect for the less mobile of us), and others with eclectic subjects, focusing on topics such as mushrooms, stained glass, and seances. One long-time annual event is the ISO Symphonic Band and Orchestra concert every Memorial Day. In addition, there are Revolutionary War reenactments, Green-wood at Night tours, and so many more all year round.

Green-wood Cemetery is a true treasure, and any Brooklynite who hasn’t been there should make a resolution to go in 2019. No matter what time of year, its beauty and its interest can’t be beat. Get to Green-wood Cemetery, while you can still walk out when you’re done.

 


 

Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg

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The shaded seating area at Smorgasburg Prospect Park, with vendor tents behind.

 

Who doesn’t like a good flea market? Gently used clothes, dishes, home furnishings, jewelry, art, antiques, and chatchkas offered by dozens of sellers at bargain prices. Who doesn’t like a fantastic food fest? Food to eat right now, with offerings from over one hundred vendors, all surrounding a large cluster of picnic tables. We all do, and Brooklyn is, as with so many things, a leader in both areas.

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From baseball gloves to African masks, vintage steel beer cans, and lettering, some of the many varied items for sale at the Brooklyn Flea.

Two great markets, Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg, are provided by the Brooklyn Flea, a ten-year-old company that began with markets in Fort Greene and Williamsburg and has moved on to locations at Industry City, DUMBO, and Prospect Park, and is rated by numerous travel magazines and Web sites as one of the best open-air markets in the country and even the world.

We can remember the flea at both original locations, and we thought it was great then. We miss it still in Fort Greene, but have enjoyed the spiffy new surroundings at Industry City and the old architectural ingenuity evident under and around the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO, long one of our favorite nabes.

The other big, regular event run by the Brooklyn Flea is the weekly Smorgasburg, a massive food event in the original East River State Park location in Williamsburg (Saturdays) and in Prospect Park (Sunday) on Well House Drive at Breeze Hill. For those who are just now checking out Brooklyn or those who somehow don’t know about this already, Smorgasburg is a monster food fair, with vendors selling an international mix of prepared dishes running the full gamut from poutine to vegan treats. A recent visit to the Prospect Park locale had us tasting delicious offerings from Jamaica, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, and ogling meats, sweets, and other delectables from many other vendors we noted down for next time. Everything is good, and it all tastes better sitting outside. But note that time is running out. Summer’s over, and Smorgasburg runs only through the end of this month. Miss it now and you’ll have to wait until April next year! (Dates below.)

Other important Smorgasburg notes: Pets are welcome, and at Prospect Park there’s a large area for parking bikes. We assume there’s bike parking at or near East River State Park.

Whether your passion is food or found treasures, weekends in Brooklyn can feed your individual frenzy for either or both. Visit the Flea and/or the Smorgasburg and satisfy your yearnings. You’ll have a great time doing it.

Brooklyn Flea
Saturdays, 10:00 – 5:00, Industry City, 241 37th St., Sunset Park
Sundays, 10:00 – 5:00, Manhattan Bridge Arch, 80 Pearl St., DUMBO

Smorgasburg
Saturdays, 11:00 – 6:00, April – October ONLY (Last event October 27 this year (2018)),                                             East River State Park, Williamsburg, Kent Avenue at N. 7th Street.
Sundays, 11:00 – 6:00, April – October ONLY (Last event October 21 this year (2018)),                                               Prospect Park Breeze Hill, off East Drive near Lincoln Road.

 

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Views from the Prospect Park Smorgasburg.

 


 

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum

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The exhibits at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum cover international arts, local natural sciences, and world cultures.

 

Young minds are curious. From babyhood, the blank slate that is our new-born brain begins absorbing all that we see, examining our hands, and feet, and the faces, the touch, and smell of our parents and everything else that we sense. If we’re lucky, as we grow, as we age, that curiosity stays with us. One way to maintain that level of absorption of our surroundings is to continue to explore new things. Here in Brooklyn we’re very fortunate to have an institution that is dedicated to nurturing the developing minds of our youngest.

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum, in Crown Heights, is the oldest and one of the largest institutions in the country and perhaps the world dedicated to feeding and developing the curiosity and creativity of children. From its beginning in 1899, the museum has presented science, the arts, and the natural sciences with the notion of learning by experience, providing interactive, hands-on exhibits that encourage visitors to take an active part in each. 

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Some of the 30,000 objects in the collection of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. At the rear is the entrance to one of the museum’s many workshop classrooms, the Color Lab.

Six permanent exhibits offer interactive experiences in nature, art, sensory play, cultural diversity, and more. The Neighborhood Nature exhibit includes dioramas of local plants and animals found here in Brooklyn. The Our favorite is World Brooklyn where kids can learn hands on what it’s like to work as a shopkeeper, baker, grocer, builder, and other vocations.

Many of the temporary exhibits introduce young people to other cultures, other eras, and other ways of viewing and interacting with the objects and materials around us. The museum offers many weekend workshops for kids, and educators and organizations can rent a Museum on the Go case for classroom presentations and activities. In addition, the museum offers after-school programs in the arts, culture, and science, and teen programs geared toward community interaction.

The Brooklyn Children’s Museum was founded in 1899 by the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (now the Brooklyn Museum), with the idea that children learn best by doing. Creating a place that offers children a chance to touch, operate, and become immersed in the offered exhibits was a revolutionary concept at the time.

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The world culture area offers a strip of “shops” displaying items specific to various places around the world.

The original building was an old mansion on or near the site of the present building in Brower Park, designed by the architect Raphael Vinoly and completed in 2008 with more than 100,000 sq. ft. inside and a large roof deck and garden. It is the only LEED-certified green museum in the city. Today, the museum boasts a collection of over 30,000 natural science and cultural objects that are either on display or used in the various programs and exhibitions. There’s something of interest for kids of all ages. We suggest you grab your kids and go see for yourself. (Note: Thursdays from 2:00-6:00, admission is free!)

 

https://www.brooklynkids.org/

 The Children’s Museum
145 Brooklyn Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11213, corner of St. Marks Avenue

Hours: Tue, Wed, Fri., 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Thu., 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sat., Sun., 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Admission: $11 except Thursday, 2:00 – 6:00, free/pay what you wish

 


 

Pioneer Works

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There are so many reasons to love Red Hook: The waterfront, the many old warehouse buildings, now housing great modern shops and manufacturing companies such as German Kitchen Center

, the Red Hook Winery, Scanlon Glass, Steve’s Key Lime Pie, and Fairway, as well as more modern constructions like IKEA; the quaint nineteenth-century row houses along the narrow streets and the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal at Atlantic Basin; and the baseball and soccer fields and the large public pool at the Sol Goldman Rec Center. There are also many arts and community organizations, both commercial and non-profit, that attract visitors from all over the metro area. These include the Waterfront Museum Barge, The Brooklyn Waterfront Artist’s Coalition Gallery, and Added Value Farms.

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A group listening to an artist talk about his work at the Potoprens exhibit at Pioneer Works, September 2018.

One of the larger of the arts organizations is Pioneer Works, located in a former Ironwork factory at 159 Pioneer Street, at the foot of Imlay Street  between Van Brunt and Conover Streets. Pioneer Works is a cultural center “dedicated to experimentation, education, and production across disciplines. Through a broad range of educational programs, performances, residencies, and exhibitions, Pioneer Works transcends disciplinary boundaries to foster a community where alternative modes of thought are activated and supported.” In plainer English, the organization’s goal is “to make culture accessible to all.”

One of the ways it does that is through its Second Sundays events. Second Sundays is a free event series which provides the public free access to tour the space, visit the studios of current resident artists, and view the current exhibitions. There is live music, and the organization’s program leaders give hands-on demonstrations and programs in art, education, science, and technology.

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One of the twenty artists exhibiting work at the Potoprens show talks about his work.

The center offers classes in each of its different focuses, i.e., art, science, technology, and music. Many classes relate to the current exhibitions. Admission is free, though a reservation is required. A link to order a free ticket is on the page of each program, class, or talk.

Scientific Controversies (Sci Con) is a series of conversations between scientists on unsolved quandaries, hosted by Director of Sciences Janna Levin. Conversations can be on any scientific riddle, such as Swarm Intelligence, String Theory, Black Holes, or Dark Matter.

One of the more well-known events sponsored by Pioneer Works is the annual Red Hook Regatta, in which homemade boats race along the Red Hook waterfront in New York Harbor.  The 2018 regatta, the fourth annual, takes place on September 28th. The race features two classes of boats, 3-D printed boats and general do-it-yourself boats. All boats must fit in a 2′ x 2′ x 2′ box. Electronic controllers are provided by Pioneers Works. Registration and controller-kit pickup ends on September 9th.  Full rules are here. Spectators can watch from Valentino Park pier from 1:00-5:00 p.m. The event is free, and there is catered food available (not free) and live entertainment during a half-time break.

Visit the center’s Web site for a complete list of current goings on.

Some History

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A picture of one of the steamrollers made at the Pioneer Iron Works near the close of  the 19th century. The building is now the home of the Pioneer Works cultural center.

The original Pioneer Iron Works factory opened by circa 1866 on Williams Street at the foot of Imlay Street, under the ownership of Alexander Bass. Ten years later the company was a leading manufacturer of tar kettles and steamrollers for road construction, and sugar production machinery and “temporary railroads,” the latter two products sold to companies in Cuba to be used on sugar plantations. The factory suffered two devastating fires, one in 1881 and one in 1906 but was rebuilt each time. The company closed in the mid-1940s, about the same time as the end of World War II, and the building was used for some time after as a storage facility for the Time Moving Company.

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Map detail from 1903 showing both William and Pioneer as the names of the street where the Pioneer Iron Works was.

William Street was renamed Pioneer Street around the turn of the twentieth Century. Maps from 1898 have the way named William Street. By 1903, both names, William and Pioneer, are used as the name. Eventually, William was dropped completely.

We’re repeat visitors to the center and to  Second Sundays, and can say it’s well worth a stop-by any time you’re in Red Hook, which we think should be fairly often.

Pioneer Works, 159 Pioneer Street
Hours: Thurs – Sun, 2 – 7      Admission: FREE!

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The Coney Island Art Walls

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Out to Live, by Chris Stain, one of approximately thirty murals at the Coney Island Art Walls exhibit, through September.

 

Coney Island is known the world over as a summer entertainment magnet, famous for its teeming beaches, boardwalk food stands, and thronged amusements parks, as well as the more recent baseball games and weekly Friday night fireworks.

One of the lesser-known, but just as cool, attractions and a great reason to get yourself down to Coney Island soon is the annual exhibit called the Coney Island Art Walls. The art walls sit in an otherwise empty lot between Stillwell Avenue and W 15th Street and between Bowery Street (one block south of Surf Avenue) and the boardwalk, right behind Nathan’s hot dog restaurant. Now in its fourth year, the art walls were the brainchild of Joseph J. Sitt, founder of the real estate development company Thor Equities, which owns the land, and Jeffrey Deitch, an art dealer and former Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles, who co-curates the event with Mr. Sitt.

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Just a few of the walls currently on view at the Coney Island Art Walls exhibit.

Mr. Sitt, who grew up in Brooklyn, refers to the annual exhibit as “…Thor Equities’ way of bringing life to an empty site in the core of Coney Island, while keeping the Coney feeling and stretching it in new directions.” He had the walls erected in 2015 for the first show, and they’ve been up since. As is most street art, the works are temporary, painted over when a wall is given to another chosen artist.

Mr. Deitch has been an artist, art writer, gallery owner, and curator for decades, including his stint at MOCA, where a special Art in the Streets exhibit drew record crowds. He’s now bringing that same street-art vibe to Coney Island each summer, and we’re grateful for it. This year’s artists include Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Sam Vernon, Shepard Fairey, Jane Dickson, Jim Drain, Skewville, along with many other street artists and muralists.

Besides presenting the murals, the Art Walls space hosts periodic events both public and private. The final month of the season will include the Quiet Clubbing Festival on Saturday, September 15th, with six DJs spinning their sounds from 7:00 p.m. until the wee hours. Everybody gets a headset that lets you choose which DJ you want to hear and the volume. LED robots and LED hula dancers are promised for the event. The special music events require tickets, for sale in advance or at the door until sold out.

According to the Art Walls’ Web site,  the exhibition space is open every day from 11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. through September, and admission is free. However, we went twice on Friday evenings and it was closed at 7:00. A mounted policeman told us it’s open during the day. On a third trip, on a Saturday afternoon, the space had been taken over by an event, which we could have attended for $60. (We didn’t.) Our advice is to get there before five o’clock on a weekday.

For more information on the music events, go here: http://donyc.com/venues/coney-island-art-walls

See you at Coney Island!